An ‘important step forward’: In a unanimous vote, San Diego County directs more funds toward child care


San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to start putting their recently released child-care blueprint into action with an injection of federal funds.

The motion proposed by Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer and Chair Nora Vargas will dedicate additional funding to licensing and infrastructure needs for child-care providers, allowing them to serve more children.

It will also create a pilot program to give county workers up to three paid days off for emergency child care.

The blueprint unveiled earlier this year outlines how the county plans to address some of the industry’s issues by helping current providers, creating a pipeline of new ones and hiring and training staff to provide quality care.

A new county blueprint focuses on supporting the workforce, expanding facilities and increasing overall access

Sept. 2, 2023

“As a county we have a responsibility to do everything we can to fix a system that is not working for the families in the communities we represent,” Lawson-Remer said.

Lawson-Remer said although Tuesday’s vote was a big win for parents, children and child-care providers across the region, it is only one step in the right direction.

“Taking this important step forward will not only benefit our region this year, but for many years to come,” she said. “We are building long-term capacity in child care, its workforce and giving greater support to our essential workers.”

The allocation will use federal funding set aside for child care during the pandemic — just as states are expected to face a steep decline once federal funding runs out Sept. 30.

As a result of the federal funds expiring, an estimated 70,000 child-care programs — about one in three — could close, according to a study by the Century Foundation. Some 3.2 million children nationwide could lose care, the study concluded.

Already, the county estimates that 77 percent of parents struggle to find caregivers for their children, Lawson-Remer said. Many licensed providers have lengthy wait lists, and large swaths of the county are child-care deserts, with space for only a fraction of the young children who need them.

Most of the two dozen or more people who spoke at the hearing Tuesday supported the investment.

Those in opposition voiced concerns about government involvement in private business or said the funding could be better spent on issues like homelessness.

The county has already been using funds to expand child-care capacity at facilities across the county, funding both infrastructure improvements as well as an increase in staffing and training.

Tuesday’s motion will inject additional funds to enhance the infrastructure needs for new and existing child-care providers and family child-care homes in under-served areas.

“We must value the entrepreneurial spirit of child-care providers and remove barriers to help them succeed, to ensure child-care professionals have the training and development needed to provide a safe environment for children,” Vargas said.

The motion will also direct about $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward creating a pilot program to implement an emergency child-care flex day system for county workers.

“I really appreciate the fact that we are walking the walk by making sure that we’re recognizing the challenges that are faced by many of our county employees,” Vargas said.

Child-care advocates hope the added resources lay the groundwork for more long-term investment in the child-care sector.

“A thriving child-care infrastructure is something that we all benefit from,” said Erin Hogeboom, director of San Diego for Every Child, a nonprofit working to ensure children’s basic needs are met.

“It keeps the wheels of our local economy moving and it gives all kids — San Diego’s very future — a strong foundation.”